New Jersey’s highest court has determined that juvenile sex offenders will no longer be held on the state’s sex offender registry for life. New Jersey, which pioneered the sex offender registry, intended on utilizing this tool in an effort to protect community members and their families from potential harm. The Supreme Court unanimously determined that placing such requirements on individuals directly violates their due process rights under the Constitution. It was determined that requiring a juvenile offender to remain on the state’s sex offender registry greatly inhibits their ability to rehabilitate and integrate back into society as they make their way into adulthood.
The landmark Megan’s Law, which initiated the sex offender registry, was enacted in 1994. In 2002, New Jersey adopted federal law which placed much more stringent punishments upon sex offenders including the lifetime registry requirement. The new legislation requires all sex offenders to register as a sex offender; however, it also allows the individual the ability to appeal if they were convicted as a juvenile. In these cases, the individual will appear in front of a judge who will determine if the offender “has been offense-free and does not likely pose a societal risk” after 15 years. In revising the 2002 additions to Megan’s Law, it became apparent that by not allowing juvenile offenders to be removed from the registry, it assumed that they posed a threat to society indefinitely. Many who had been branded by their previous actions would suffer a great deal of trouble traveling and advancing in their career. Attorneys have argued that this is a mental health issue as research suggests a low recidivism rate for those who commit these crimes at a young age.